Once upon a time, a celebratory family dinner at a restaurant involved lavish dal makhani bowls, buttery chicken curries, stuffed paranthas, and syrupy desserts. Romantic dinner dates too had a fair share of pastas, pizzas, and brownies. Night out with friends was all about booze and burgers. Cut to: the pandemic when healthy eating suddenly came to the forefront. Eating out, thus, became all about well-sanitised cutlery, salad bowls, fruit-based desserts, and all things vegan.
Covid-19 has changed the way we eat out completely, and a recent survey by consultancy firm EY India, is testament to the fact. According to their report ‘The Sunrise Consumer Health and Nutrition Sector', factors like hygiene, sustainability, and holistic nutrition now dictate what’s on the Indian consumer’s plate. Let’s dig deeper and look at the top food trends that reveal how people are more conscious about eating out now:
1. The ascent of veganism
The concept of avoiding foods and products derived from animals might have come into the limelight back in 1944, but it has become a lifestyle choice for many people in the current times. You can blame it on the dire need to reduce the carbon footprint, an increased awareness about animal cruelty, and a host of popular celebrities like Shahid Kapoor endorsing the lifestyle. As a result, dairy-free desserts and plant-based delicacies are now a part of several restaurant menus. In fact, many new eateries catering exclusively to veganism have popped up as a result of the vegan wave. You can even find plant-based supplements, drinks, and snacks in most supermarket isles.
2. Slow food movement
The pre-covid times were mostly about heating a pack of ready-to-eat pasta or making two-minute noodles for dinner. But covid-19 restrictions and the resulting lockdowns gave us time to pause and reflect on our choices—including the food we had been eating while trying to keep up with our hectic lives. Since there were food shortages and eating out or shopping freely at the supermarket wasn’t an option, we mostly went back to eating clean home-cooked meals. And that was the resurgence of the slow food movement that was originally started in 1986 in Italy. Based on the principle of enjoying food that is healthy, good for those who grow it, and good for the planet—this movement has made us ditch junk and fast foods for whole grains, locally-grown fruits and veggies, and ingredients from our own small kitchen gardens.
3. Hygiene and health
Oily and fried foods have taken a backseat and baked and fresh goods are in the limelight as eating out is no longer about just pleasing your taste buds. After being away from their loved ones for the longest time during the pandemic, people just want to bond with friends and family—over healthy food. Additionally, the use of well-sanitised cutlery is also something that most of us now look for before selecting a restaurant to dine at.
4. The rise and rise of immunity-boosting foods
Covid-19 most definitely taught us the importance of having a strong immunity. As a result, immunity-boosting shots, teas, kaadhas, and supplements dominated the market. The eateries were quick to take a cue from the surge and added immunity-boosting salads, dishes, and fresh juices to the menu.
5. Farm-to-table concept
The farm-to-table concept promotes serving foods that use fresh ingredients grown or produced not so far from where they are eaten, preferably through direct acquisition from the producer. As the name suggests, it involves procuring fresh produce from farmers and putting it on your table. In a world where almost every home and most restaurants use processed foods and imported ingredients even during off season, there is a silent but growing movement of people, chefs, and farmers turning to seasonal fresh food grown responsibly. The doorstep delivery of farm-fresh milk and chicken, and a rising demand in dishes made with organic ingredients at restaurants, are proof that this healthy-eating mantra is on the rise and is here to stay.
6. Food transparency
Gone are the days when consumers would mindlessly pick up sugary drinks from the supermarket aisle or order salad bowls with calorie-dense seasonings at restaurants. With increasing awareness about healthy eating and nutrition, a lot of us now take the time to read food labels carefully and appreciate restaurants that mention ingredients in their menus. Organic, chemical-free, natural, clean, and sustainably sourced are words that we now look for instead of “diet-friendly, low-cal, and sugar free”.
Covid-19 might have been a difficult time for all of us. But the one good thing that came out of it was all of us realising the importance of healthy eating and a strong immunity. Thankfully, this has driven a change in the way we eat and dine and restaurants too are catering to the change. Hopefully, this will help us all become healthy and happy in the long-term and be able to fight off dangerous diseases in the future.